In celebration of Women’s History Month, we here at The Daily Fandom decided to look at some awesome female main characters in pop culture. While this list presents the characters in a countdown, there is no particular order as it is all subjective. And my personal preference in fiction tends to have female protagonists anyway, so as a result, this list doesn’t even begin to cover everyone I wanted to talk about.
Certain characters were omitted from this list on the basis that it was too predictable. Wonder Woman, for instance, a character whose comics I have been reading since I was a little kid, did not make the list. She’s the one that everyone would think of for a list like this, so I felt it necessary to omit her. There are some characters in this list that come from an ensemble cast of characters but have enough story focus to be considered a main character in my opinion.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the 10 female main characters that rule!
1. Dexedrine Callisto Parios — Stumptown
Coming from the pages of Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, we have Dex. When I talked to Rucka about his experience writing this series, he brought up what Dex is supposed to represent. Rucka did his dissertation paper on the evolution of the PI genre and considering his first published work was in that genre, it’s no surprise that he knows it backward and forward. He mentioned that every decade has the PI that represents it. That all the PI characters are influenced by the timeframe of which they were written. Dex is that for the late 2000s.
Dex is a military veteran who lives in Portland, Oregon with her disabled brother. Matching in with every PI in existence, she is a bit down on her luck. She struggles to make ends meet, has a gambling addiction, and has a horrible love life. But no matter how dark and dreary things get, she will get back up with her ever snappy sense of humor. Her adventures are both topical and fun, blending a nice balance of tones. And much like the reason she was created for, she feels like a real woman taking things day by day in the modern world.
2. Lara Croft — Tomb Raider
So with a franchise that turned 25 years old this year, we have one of the more obvious choices on this list, Lara. While her history in the representation of women has been dicey in the past, there is no denying her impact. Seemingly overnight, an industry icon was born and used to sell anything from video games to even cars. Lara will go down in history as one of those characters that just hit at the right moment and became a megastar like Bugs Bunny, Darth Vader, and many more.
What makes her interesting, despite the many reboots that changed her history and personality a bit, is that she just isn’t female Indiana Jones. Lara is the kind of character that is ultimately out for herself. She’s an adrenaline junkie who gets her kicks from delving into ancient history and fighting god-like beings that she has uncovered. She’s reckless and that causes lots of problems. The most recent game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, has this as the main theme of the plot. For her, it’s less about something belonging in a museum and more about what kind of fun she will have.
3. Elektra Natchios — Marvel Comics
Introduced in the pages of Frank Miller’s Daredevil run, Elektra stands as two archetypes blended together to create an interesting character. Much like the majority of Miller’s work, his Daredevil is very influenced by the noir genre. When he looked at the character, he decided that Matt needed a romantic interest that could match him in every way. A femme fatal, who could be both Matt’s lover and villain. As a result, she became one of the most popular characters in his run. This caused an uproar when she was murdered by Bullseye, causing editorial to force Miller to resurrect her.
As mentioned, Elektra is the femme fatal. She is the forbidden fruit for Matt. To him, she is representative of nothing but sex and violence, and if their romance lasted longer it did, they would most likely end up dead. They are each toxic for the other one, that’s the point. But because she is the deadly assassin archetype wrapped up in the femme fatal, she adds a new layer to her character. She can’t die, she will always be back, forever haunting Matt. Whose side she is on is never clear, she only cares about herself. She can be both a villain and a hero, just like Frank Miller intended.
4. Forever Carlyle — Lazarus
Here is another Greg Rucka invention, coming from the pages of Lazarus, Forever. The world of Lazarus is harsh. It’s a realistic dystopic future where the world has been divided among economic lines and the richest families rule. Each family made an agreement to keep the power balance by each having a genetically engineered super soldier. They are only allowed one, and for the Carlyle family, which rules over a majority of the western half of the United States and Canada, Forever is the one.
More than that, she is the original Lazarus. The Carlyle family has pumped her full of drugs that enhance her strength, agility, and intelligence. They have gifted her the ability to be practically immortal and brainwashed her to be fiercely loyal, to believe in them and the saying “Family above all.” However, she begins to see the light as it were, realizing that her family isn’t what they say they are. She wakes up to a world that is decaying. It is now her story to write, no longer the puppet she once was. It’s her decision to figure out who she is and what she was going to do.
5. Aloy — Horizon: Zero Dawn
Not only is Horizon: Zero Dawn one of the best games made in the past few years, it stars one of the best gaming protagonists of all time. Aloy was born into post-apocalyptic earth in which animalistic robots roam freely, and humans live as disjointed tribes. The technological level is all over the place because the rules of the old world have been lost. But there is something far worse than the future she was born into, she was born without a mother. Under the rules of her tribe, she must be exiled because she comes from what they view as a god and therefore is a liability to their faith.
Not letting that get her down, she trains for years to take part in The Proving and earn her place in the tribe. Soon, she finds out that she is intrinsically connected to what happened to the world before the apocalypse and what will happen next. She delves into the mystery of the old world and finds out about herself. She never gives up, never loses hope, and never waivers. Aloy is a beacon of hope in a world that has none left.
6. Kira Nerys — Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Star Trek franchise has many great characters in its over 50 years of history to mine. But one of the best iterations of the franchise, Deep Space Nine, has given us the incredibly confident yet damaged Major Kira. She was born into the devoutly religious race known as the Bajorans that have been occupied and enslaved by an authoritarian race known as the Cardassians. From the moment she could pick a phaser, she joined the resistance movement on Bajor and never looked back. She fought tooth and nail against her oppressors and paid the cost in lives and morals. She regrets what she had to do but does not regret the results.
Over the course of Deep Space Nine, she grows as a character and learns to accept what she did. The more she discovers about her past, the more she realizes the grey morality of the situation she was in. She outgrows her racism and mellows out but never loses her edge. A fantastic character arc for an amazing character.
7. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace — Battlestar Galactica
The reimagining of Battlestar Galactica from Deep Space Nine scribe Ronald D. Moore made many significant but great changes to the source material. Starbuck was originally a male character, and as a result, is just like any other cocky space pilot. In 2003, Moore knew that this archetype, while interesting, had gotten quite bland. So, he took the character and gender-bent him to become a woman. But more than that, he decided to delve into her psyche and find out why she is the way she is.
To quote Ronald D. Moore, “Battlestar Galactica is a show about severely fraked up people.” Starbuck is a character with many traits that make her toxic to be around but is still a good friend. She’s tough, overconfident, and kind, yet prefers to punch out her problems rather than talk about them. She is also very religious, meaning that she is inherently a contradiction and thus feels like a genuine human being.
8. Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon — The Witcher Saga
When Andrzej Sapkowski sat down to write The Witcher Saga, he had a particular mission he wanted to accomplish. He didn’t want to write a standard fantasy tale. He wanted to talk about the genre, and philosophize about moral quandaries, all the while having great characters at the center of the story. Ciri was first introduced to the reader in the short story The Sword of Destiny as a little girl with a cold. As the story progresses, we learn that she is of the aristocracy and that she is tied to Geralt of Rivia by destiny.
Then the Saga begins, and she usurps the title of the main character from Geralt. The Witcher Saga is about many things, but the main one is family. Geralt is the father, Yennefer is the mother, and Ciri is the daughter. She begins as a wide-eyed girl ready to face her destiny head-on. But as she is exposed to the horrors of the world and people die around her, she loses her control. Much like a real person in their teenage years, she rebels. She joins a group of thieves known as the Rats and kills for fun. The only thing she cares about is her family, whether that be the Rats or Geralt and Yen. Her destiny no longer means anything to her except death.
9. Susan Ivanova — Babylon 5
J. Michael Straczynski’s ambitious and ground-breaking show, Babylon 5, did many firsts. For the first time on American television, we had an ongoing serialized story with an ending in mind and the first time CGI was used in the place of models for all of the special effects. It was also one of the first to show an LBGT+ relationship between two women. Susan Ivanova, an openly bisexual character who was second in command of a space station in a TV show in the 90s, was pretty impressive for the time.
Ivanova is cynic that wants to believe that people can be better but has seen too much horribleness. Her own mother committed suicide due to being on pills that suppressed her telepathic abilities. She lost her brother in a war that ended just a few moments before the annihilation of the entire human race. Her own father lost himself after the death of his wife and pushed Ivanova away. Now, she is a damaged woman who needs to believe in something better. And so, she, along with Sheridan, leads the charge in the Shadow War and the Earth Civil War. She is a nexus which means when she turns one way, many will follow. She is death incarnate and she will fight to the bitter end for a better tomorrow.
10. Renee Montoya — DC Comics
Originally created for the hit comic adaptation Batman: The Animated Series, Renee Montoya stood out from the crowd. She was a Latina cop who believed in what Batman was trying to do. Establish law and order in one of the worst places on earth. People liked her so much that she was adapted into the comics that her show was based on. And much like Harley Quinn, she arguably became just as popular among certain fans as the caped crusader himself.
Renee has had many different histories written about her, the series bible for Batman: The Animated Series even stating she had a dead husband. However, during the No Man’s Land story arc, a young writer by the name of Greg Rucka made his debut in comics. He was immediately attached to the character of Renee and knew something about her that no one else did. She was a closeted lesbian who came from a devoutly Catholic immigrant family from the Dominican Republic.
He set it up and then followed it through by outing her in the pages of Gotham Central. This forever cemented the character as important to comic history. It also set her on the course of Rucka’s planned arc. That arc would end with her taking up the mantle of a superhero whose previous owner had a personality very much like her, The Question. She is and will forever remain my favorite female main character in all of fiction.
Amazing Characters For All To Enjoy
I hope you have enjoyed this list of female main characters. Pop culture is wide and vast, but sadly most fiction tends to center on male characters. As time has gone on, we have thankfully become more inclusive. Women deserve to be able to relate and see themselves in the fiction they experience. And that’s why we give thanks to these characters and creators on this year’s Women’s History Month.